Category Archives: Annotated Games

1977 Major Open Part 4

With four rounds to play I was back to 50% and was given the black pieces against another strong teenager (unlike today there were a lot of them around), Clive Hill.

I chose a rather suspect line of the Modern Defence which had been recommended by Keene and Botterill in their book on the opening.

1. d4 g6 2. e4 Bg7 3. Nc3 d6 4. f4 c6 5. Be3 Qb6 6. Rb1 f5 7. e5

Giving up a pawn for rapid development.

7… dxe5 8. fxe5 Bxe5 9. Nf3 Bg7 10. Bc4 Nf6 11. Qe2

C Hansen – M Todorcevic Rome 1988 was OK for Black: 11. Qd2 Qb4 12. Ne5 e6 13. O-O Qe7 14. Bg5 b5 15. Bb3 b4 16. Bxf6 Bxf6 17. Ne2 a5 18. Qe3 a4 19. Bc4 Ra5 20. Nd3 O-O 21. Nef4 Na6 22. c3 bxc3 23. bxc3 Nc7 24. Rfe1 Re8 25. Rb8 Ra8 26. Rxa8 Nxa8 27. Nc5 Nb6 28. Bxe6+ Bxe6 29. Qd3 Qd6 30. Rxe6 Rxe6 31. Nfxe6 Nd5 32. g3 1/2-1/2

but H Westerinen – H Lehtinen Finland 2003 was a disaster: 11. O-O e6 12. Qe2 Qb4 13. Bf4 Qe7 14. Rbe1 O-O 15. Ng5 Re8 16. Qd3 Kh8 17. Bd6 Qd7 18. Bxe6 Rxe6 19. Rxe6 Ng8 20. Rfe1 1-0

11… Nd5

Returning the pawn is probably Black’s best option.

12. Bxd5 cxd5 13. Nxd5 Qa5+ 14. Nc3 Nc6 15. O-O Be6 16. Rbd1 Rd8

Here Ng5 or Bh6 would favour White but instead my opponent goes for a tactical idea which doesn’t quite work.

17. Bf4 Bf7 18. Nb5 O-O

The intention was presumably 19. Bc7 but Clive must have missed that after 19… Qxa2 20. Bxd8 Rxd8 I have the nasty threat of Bc4, hitting several pieces. 21. b3 is no good because of Bxb3 so the best bet is 21. d5 Rxd5 22. Nc3 Bxc3 23. bxc3 when Black has two pawns and a nice position for the exchange. This would still have been better than his choice in the game, though.

19. b3 a6

Trapping the knight. 20. Nc7 would now be met most effectively by 20… e5.

20. Bc7 Qxb5 21. Qxb5 axb5 22. Bxd8 Rxd8

Now I have two bishops against a rook and eventually manage to bring home the full point.

23. c3 b4 24. cxb4 Nxb4 25. Rfe1 Kf8 26. Re3 Nxa2 27. Kf1 Nb4 28. Ng5 Nc2 29. Rc3 Nxd4 30. Rc7 Bxb3 31. Re1 e5 32. Nxh7+ Kg8 33. Ng5 b5 34. Rb7 Bc4+ 35. Kg1 Ra8 36. h4 e4 37. g4 Nf3+ 38. Nxf3 exf3 39. gxf5 Bd4+ 40. Kh2 f2 0-1

Back to +1, then, with three rounds to go, and Round 9 found me facing David Robertson, another higher graded player from Liverpool. I opted for a quiet line against his Pirc Defence.

1. e4 d6 2. d4 Nf6 3. Bd3 g6 4. c3 Bg7 5. Nf3 O-O 6. O-O Bg4

Perhaps not the most accurate move here as Black will be forced to trade off his better bishop.

7. Nbd2 Nc6 8. h3 Bxf3 9. Nxf3 e5 10. dxe5 dxe5 11. Qc2 Qd6 12. Be3 Rad8 13. Rad1 Qe7 14. b4 Ne8 15. Bc4 Nd6 16. Bd5 Kh8

A strange choice, giving up a pawn. 16… a5 was possible.

17. Bxc6 bxc6 18. Bxa7 f5 19. exf5 gxf5 20. Bc5 Qe6 21.
Rfe1 e4 22. Nd4 Qg6 23. Ne2

Another strange choice. No reason not to capture on c6.

23… f4 24. f3 Rde8 25. Bd4

A mistake, allowing Black to force a draw.

25… Nc4 26. Bc5 Ne3

Instead 26… Na3 leads to repetition. I have to play either Qb2 or Qd2 to hold g2 (other queen moves lose to exf3 when a knight move will allow immediate mate) and Black just goes back to c4, hitting the queen again. But now I reach an ending with two extra pawns.

27. Nxf4 Rxf4 28. Rxe3 Rxf3 29. Rxf3 exf3 30. Qxg6 hxg6 31. gxf3 Bxc3 32. a4 Ra8 33. a5 Be5 34. Bd4 Bxd4+ 35. Rxd4 c5 36. bxc5 Rxa5 37. Rd8+ Kh7 38. Rd7+ Kh6 39. Rxc7 Ra2 40. c6 Kg5 41. Rc8 Kf4 42. c7 Kg3 43. Kf1 Rc2 44. Ke1 g5 45. Kd1

I could have played f4 immediately, but I eventually get the right idea. If black takes either way his king will be exposed to a rook check.

45… Rc3 46. Kd2 Rc4 47. Kd3 Rc5 48. Kd4 Rc6 49. Kd5 Rc1 50. Ke6 Rc2 51. Kf5 Rc5+ 52. Ke4 Rc4+ 53. Kd3 Rc6 54. f4 1-0

I was now on 5½/9 with two round to play. Would my luck hold out? You’ll find out next week.

Perhaps Clive and David will also find out, as, 38 years on, I’m in regular touch with both of them on Facebook. David’s active involvement with chess still continues. He brought several major events to Liverpool between 2006 and 2008, still plays regularly, and is still graded above me. In the following year’s Major Open he gained his revenge, beating me in only 18 moves:

1. e4 e6 2. d4 d5 3. Nd2 b6 4. Ngf3 Bb7 5. Bd3 Nf6 6. e5 Nfd7 7. O-O c5 8. c3 Nc6 9. Re1 g5 10. Nf1 g4 11. Ng5 h5 12. Nxe6 Qc8 13. Nf4 Nd8 14. Bf5 Be7 15. e6 fxe6 16. Nxe6 Nxe6 17. Rxe6 Kd8 18. Qe1 1-0

Clive, on the other hand, gave up chess for many years, but made a comeback a couple of years ago, playing in the 2014 British Championships, since when we’ve managed to meet up for lunch (must do it again sometime, Clive!).

It’s a tribute to the power of chess, as well as the power of social media, that friendships can be reignited after so many years. I’ve come to realise that this is the real reason why I continue to play chess.

Richard James


1977 Major Open Part 3

Continuing my series on the 1977 Major Open, after four rounds I was on 2½ points.

In the fifth round I had White against Paul Carey, a teenage player with a slightly higher grade than mine. I played an early c3 against his Sicilian Defence.

1. e4 c5 2. Nf3 e6 3. c3 Nf6 4. e5 Nd5 5. d4 cxd4 6. cxd4 b6 7. Nc3 Bb7 8. Bc4 Bb4 9. Bd2 Bxc3 10. bxc3 d6

11. O-O Nd7

A very strange decision, letting me take on d6 for free.

12. exd6 O-O
13. Bd3 N5f6
14. Bg5 Qb8
15. Bf4 Nd5
16. Be5 Nxc3
17. Qc2

A slightly stronger alternative was the Greek Gift 17. Bxh7+ Kxh7 18. Qd3+ Kg8 19. Ng5. As Black can’t afford to weaken his king’s defences any more he has to play Ne4, returning the piece.

17… Rc8
18. Bxh7+ Kh8
19. Ng5 Ne4

White can still claim an advantage here after 20. Qa4, for instance 20. Qa4 Bc6 21. Qxc6 Rxc6 22. Bxe4 Rc4 23. Nxf7+ Kg8 24. Ng5 Qe8 25. Bxa8 Qxa8 26. Nxe6 with lots of material for the queen, or 20. Qa4 Nxg5 21. Qxd7 Nxh7 22. Qxf7 Rg8 23. Rac1 with more than enough compensation.

Understandably, though, I chose to play for a draw:

20. Nxf7+ Kxh7
21. Qe2 Nxe5
22. dxe5

Rather careless, giving Black another option: 22… Kg8 23. d7 Kxf7 24. dxc8Q Qxc8 when there’s no perpetual and Black’s king may be safe enough to allow him to play on. 22. Qh5+ first would force the game continuation.

22… Rf8
23. Qh5+ Kg8
24. Nh6+

Sacrificing a knight for the second perpetual check of my tournament.


Round 6, the end of the first week, brought me a black against David James, a future Welsh international from Liverpool, who is still very strong and very active today. I chose a variation of the Grünfeld which, I think, was recommended by Bill Hartston in his early Batsford book on that opening. It didn’t work out very well.

1. d4 Nf6 2. c4 g6 3. Nc3 d5 4. cxd5 Nxd5 5. e4 Nxc3 6. bxc3 Bg7 7. Bc4 O-O 8.
Ne2 Nc6 9. Be3 b6 10. Qd2 Bb7 11. h4 Na5 12. Bd3 c5 13. Bh6 cxd4 14. Bxg7 Kxg7
15. cxd4 h5

16. Qe3 Qd6

This is too slow. Black’s king is dangerously short of defenders so I should have tried for counterplay via Rc8 followed by Nc4.

17. O-O Rac8
18. e5 Qd8

A fatal mistake. I had to try Qd7, with the idea of Qg4. Now White has a very strong attack.

19. Nf4 e6
20. Qg3 Rh8
21. Bxg6

White crashes through my defences with a bishop sacrifice. It’s all gone rather horribly wrong for me.

21… Qxd4
22. Bxf7+ Kxf7
23. Qg6+ Ke7
24. Qxe6+ Kf8
25. Qf6+ Kg8
26. Qg6+ 1-0

So I was back to 50%, and after a rest day on Sunday, had White against Ted Lea, an experienced player of about my strength. The game was a quiet draw not deserving of any further discussion.

1. e4 c5 2. Nf3 d6 3. Bb5+ Bd7 4. Bxd7+ Qxd7 5. O-O Nc6 6. c3 Nf6 7. Re1 e5 8.
d4 Rd8 9. Bg5 Be7 10. dxe5 dxe5 11. Qxd7+ Rxd7 12. Na3 Nh5 13. Bxe7 Kxe7 14.
Nc4 Ke6 15. Rad1 Rhd8 16. Rxd7 Rxd7 17. Ng5+ Ke7 18. Nf3 Kf6 19. g3 h6 20. Ne3
Rd3 21. Kf1 Ke6 22. Ke2 Rd7 23. a4 Nf6 24. Nd2 g6 25. f3 Ne8 26. Nb3 b6 27. Ra1
Nd6 28. Nd2 Na5 29. Nd5 f5 30. Rf1 Rf7 31. Ne3 f4 32. Nd5 fxg3 33. hxg3 c4 34.
Rh1 h5 35. Ne3 Rh7 36. Nd5 g5 37. Kf2 Nab7 38. Ne3 Nc5 39. Ndxc4 Nxc4 40. Nxc4
Nxa4 41. Ra1 1/2-1/2

Richard James


1977 Major Open Part 2

In round 3 I was paired with the white pieces against Tony Cullinane, a former British Championship contender who was graded some way above me.

I took on his French Defence with the Advance Variation.

1. e4 e6 2. d4 d5 3. e5 c5 4. c3 Nc6 5. Nf3 Qb6 6. a3 c4 7. g3 Na5 8. Nbd2 Bd7
9. Bh3 O-O-O

10. O-O Ne7

This is inaccurate. f5, Be7 and h6 have all been played here.

11. a4

Too slow. 11. Ng5 Be8 12. Qf3 gives White some advantage.

11… Ng6 12. Ng5 Be8 13. f4 Be7 14. Ngf3 Bd7 15. Re1 h5 16. Kg2 h4

17. b4

Black has gained the upper hand over the last few moves and this desperate throw makes things worse.

17… cxb3 18. Ba3 hxg3 19. hxg3 Kb8 20. Bxe7 Nxe7 21. Ng5 Be8

Better was 21… Rcf8. Now my computer tells me I should play Rb1 when I’m back in the game. But I continued in desperation mode:

22. f5 exf5 23. e6 f6 24. Nf7 Bxf7 25. exf7 Nc8 26. Bxf5 Nd6 27. Bg6 b2 28. Rb1 Qc7 29. Qf3 Nxf7 30. Bxf7 Qxf7 31. Rxb2 Qd7 32. Rb5 Qh3+ 33. Kf2 Qh2+ 34. Qg2 Qxg2+ 35. Kxg2 Nc6

Black hasn’t made the most of his chances but he’s still emerged with an extra pawn. Here he could have played 35… a6, the point being that after 36. Rxa5 b6 37. Rxa6 Kb7 my rook is trapped.

36. Reb1 Rd7

Not so obvious, at least to me, but the computer still prefers Black after b6 here.

37. Nb3 b6
38. Nc5 Re7
39. a5 Rhe8

He had to play 39… Re2+ 40. Kf3 Rc2, maintaining the balance. His next two moves were also not best, leaving me with an easy win.

40. axb6 Re2 41. Kh3 a5 42. b7 Rh8+ 43. Kg4 Ka7 44. Nd7 Re4+ 45. Kf3 g5 46. b8=Q+ Nxb8
47. Rb7+ Ka8 48. Rxb8+ 1-0

So a rather fortunate win left me on 2½/3. In Round 4 I played black against another higher rated player and former British Championship contender, Rory O’Kelly, who had previously beaten me in the 1969 London Under 21 championship. Rory is still active today, playing regularly for Mushrooms in the London League. I met his queen’s pawn opening with the Grünfeld Defence and we soon found ourselves in the ending.

1. d4 Nf6 2. c4 g6 3. Nc3 d5 4. Bg5 Ne4 5. Bh4 c5 6. cxd5 Nxc3 7. bxc3 Qxd5 8.
e3 cxd4 9. Qxd4 Qxd4 10. cxd4 e6 11. Rb1 Be7 12. Bxe7 Kxe7 13. g3 Nd7 14. Bg2
Rb8 15. Ne2 b6 16. Kd2 Ba6 17. Rhc1

12 years later, in 1989, these moves were to be repeated in Serper (2420) – Semeniuk (2365), which ended up as a draw, so we were destined to keep pretty good company. Semeniuk now played Rbc8, while I preferred the other rook.

17… Rhc8 18. Nc3 Bc4 19. Nb5 Bxb5 20. Rxb5 Rxc1 21. Kxc1 Rc8+ 22. Kb2 Nf6 23. h3 Kd6 24. Rb3 Nd5 25. e4 Ne7 26. Rc3 Rxc3 27. Kxc3 Nc6

A serious mistake. I should have held fast and played f6, with good drawing chances.

28. f4 b5 29. g4

Missing the opportunity for an immediate e5, for instance 29. e5+ Kc7 30. d5 exd5 31. Bxd5 Nd8 32. g4 Kb6 33. Kd4 Ne6+ 34. Ke4 Kc5 35. Bxe6 fxe6 36. f5 winning.

29… f6 30. h4 a5 31. g5 b4+

Letting the white king in is immediately fatal, but White seems to be winning anyway due to his superior minor piece. Some computer analysis: 31… e5 32. gxf6 Nxd4 33. fxe5+ Kxe5 34. f7 Ne6 35. Bh3 Nf8 36. Bf1 Kf6 37. Bxb5 Kxf7 38. Kb3 Ne6 39. Ka4 g5 40. Kxa5 g4 (40… gxh4 41. Kb6 h3 42. Bf1 h2 43. Bg2 Ke7 44. a4 Nf4 45. Bh1 Kd8 46. a5 Ng6 47. a6 winning) 41. Kb6 Nd4 42. Ba6 Nf3 43. a4 Nd2 44. Bc8 g3 45. Bh3 Nxe4 46. a5 Nd6 47. Kc6 Ke7 48. a6 Nc8 49. Kd5 Kd8 50. Ke4 Kc7 51. Kf3 Ne7 52. Kxg3 Kb6 53. Bf1 Nf5+ 54. Kh3 Ne3 55. Bd3 h5 and White will eventually pick up the h-pawn.

32. Kc4 a4

Another computer line: 32… f5 33. e5+ Kc7 34. d5 exd5+ 35. Bxd5 Ne7 36. Kc5 a4 37. Bc4 Nc6
38. e6 b3 39. axb3 axb3 40. Bxb3 Ne7 41. Bd5 Kd8 42. Bc6 Nc8 43. Bb7 Ne7 44.
Kd6 Ng8 45. Ke5 Ke7 46. h5 Kf8 47. hxg6 hxg6 48. Kd6 Ne7 49. Kd7 Ng8 50. Bc6
Ne7 51. Ba4 Ng8 52. e7+ Nxe7 53. Bb3 Ng8 54. Bxg8 Kxg8 55. Ke6 Kg7 56. Ke7 and wins

33. gxf6 b3 34. e5+ 1-0

Sad, but there you go. After four rounds I was on 2½ points: still not so bad.

Richard James


My Ode to Odette

My opponent in this correspondence chess game is a French woman who is named Odette. At the time that I am writing this, Odette is in dead last place with five losses, no wins and no draws. Although she is alive (as far as I know) her chances of getting more than a couple of wins or draws is dead. Thus, the ode.

In 1967 American Country singer Bobbie Gentry wrote and recorded a hit song entitled Ode to Billie Joe. In 1976 the song was made into a movie. What is still not clear to me is if the song and the movie are based upon a true story or if this all came from the imaginations of some talented writers.

The description from the  movie on  YouTube is as follows, “A seventeen-year-old boy is seduced into a homosexual act. His guilt over the incident drives him to commit suicide by jumping off the Tallahatchie Bridge, leaving his girlfriend behind.”

If you want to know more about this story then you can click on the following links:

Odette played some moves in this chess game that are about as bad as jumping off the Tallahatchie Bridge. Fortunately, she is alive to play more chess games. Because this chess game is rather short, my analysis below is more about what was not played than what was.

Mike Serovey


1977 Major Open Part 1

Returning to the consideration of some of my less bad tournaments, we turn to the Major Open in August 1977. The Major Open was then, as it is now, the tournament below the British Championship itself.

My one previous appearance at the British, in 1973 at Eastbourne, where I played in the First Class Tournament, the section below the Major Open, had been a disaster as I collapsed completely due to fatigue in the last few rounds. This time I knew I was a stronger player and hoped I was also mentally strong enough to cope with 11 rounds over 12 days.

In the first round I had white against an ungraded opponent from a prominent local family of chess players and chose the exchange variation of the Ruy Lopez. His response was not the best (6… h5 is to be preferred) and left me with a slight advantage. His decision to give up bishop and knight for rook and pawn on move 18 didn’t turn out well and I was eventually able to score the full point in a long game. A more efficient 53rd move (Bg7 rather than Be5+) would have shortened the process.

In the second round I was paired against a German player, who might or might not have been the Josef Böcker who was rated 2200+ in the late 1980s, and was faced with one of my favourite systems, the Botvinnik Blockade.

1. c4 g6 2. Nc3 Bg7 3. e4 c5 4. g3 Nc6 5. Bg2 d6 6. Nge2 e6 7. a3 Nge7 8. Rb1
a5 9. Nb5 d5

I should imagine this was a complete oversight, missing the knight fork after the exchanges on d5.

10. cxd5 exd5 11. exd5 Bf5

Already desperation although moving the knight would have kept me in the game. Now there was no reason for White not to take the knight: 12. dxc6 Bxb1 13. cxb7 Rb8 14. d4 is just winning because the bishop is coming to f4.

12. d3 Ne5 13. Be4

Better was d6 with advantage to White. Now it seemed natural to displace the white king, but the engines tell me I should have preferred Qd7, hoping to regain the pawn.

13… Bxe4 14. dxe4 Nf3+ 15. Kf1 Qd7 16. Kg2 Qxb5 17. Kxf3 O-O 18. Bg5 f6 19. Bf4 g5 20. Bd6 Qd7 21. Bxc5 f5 22. Kg2 fxe4 23. Nc3 Rf5 24. Qb3

Instead 24. Bxe7 Qxe7 25. d6 maintains the extra pawn with advantage. Now I regain the missing pawn and have an attack down the f-file.

24… Nxd5 25. Rhd1 Bxc3 26. bxc3 Qf7 27. Bd4 Rf8 28. Rd2 b5 29. Qc2 e3

Choosing to force a draw by perpetual check.

30. Bxe3 Nxe3+ 31. fxe3 Rf1 32. Qb3 Rxb1 33. Qxb1 Qf3+ 34. Kh3 Qh5+ 35. Kg2 Qf3+ 36. Kh3 Qh5+ 1/2-1/2

Richard James


Drawing This Correspondence Chess Game Was No Hassell

My opponent in this correspondence chess game is from England and his last name is Hassell. As some of my readers may have noticed, I like to play with words and the names of my opponents!

Originally, I wanted to trade down into a King and pawn endgame or to use my remaining Bishop to go after my opponent’s pawns that were on dark squares. However, when he offered a draw on move number 27 I accepted the offer because I realized that there just was not enough play left in the position to justify my spending my time and energy on trying to win that rather closed endgame.

This cc game is one of three draws that I have in this section.

Mike Serovey


An American Defeats Henry the Eighth

My opponent in this correspondence chess game is not really Henry VIII of England. However, his name is Henry and he is from Finland. Also, while playing chess with this Henry I kept thinking of an old song from 1965 by Herman’s Hermits called “I’m Henry Vlll I Am”. You can watch and listen to a YouTube video featuring this song here:

I started this correspondence chess game with the Réti Opening and the game transposed into the English Opening, and then something that resembled the Botvinnik System. This Henry decided to play an unusual line against me. Although he was using a combination of chess engines during this chess game, he went against what the engines recommended and played an unsound sacrifice. That was the main reason that he lost this cc game.

This is my second win in this section. After one win and one draw I moved into fourth place out of thirteen in this section. With two wins, three draws and three losses I am still in fourth place at the time that I am writing this.

Mike Serovey


What’s for Lunge?

Some part of a mistake is always correct. – Tartakower

Once again a glorious and haphazard victory when my opponent lunges at White’s 1. g3 position. Well, that’s oversimplifying it. White’s position was genuinely inferior to the point of material loss, but care was required. My Candidate Master opponent played nervously and moved a bit too rapidly and found his way to a lost position.

After my opponent’s 10 … Nb4! material loss was inevitable for White.  Black won the exchange, but it cost him his fianchetto bishop. White could then have exchanged on c5 and snarfled Black’s c-pawn immediately which would restore something close to material equality, but the plan of applying pressure on the long black diagonal was irresistible, despite the flaw that after 16 … h5 White’s knight could have become marooned on e5.

Black’s impetuous lunge was really 16 … f6 which justified White’s previous play and allowed White at least equality. But after that, Black’s fashion of cleaning up the mess on the kingside caused Black to lose a pawn. Grabbing it back in time pressure was a game-loser.

At the end,  Black resigned, because on 28 … Ke5 29. Nf3+ Kd5 30. Qd8+ White wins the bishop with check, and if 28 … Kg5 it’s mate in 7 starting with 29. Ne4+ !

Jacques Delaguerre


Islington Open 1976 Part 3

1976 was the year Christmas came six days early for me.

Just look at what happened in my games in the last two rounds at Islington.

Going into Round 5 on 2/4 I was paired with the white pieces against Paul Littlewood, who had a grade of 214 at the time of the game. Paul had been British U18 Champion in 1972 and British Under 21 Champion in 1975, and would later become an International Master and win the British itself in 1981.

1. e4 c5 2. c4 Nc6 3. Nc3 a6 4. g3 Rb8 5. a4 e6 6. Bg2 Nf6 7. f4 d6 8. Nge2 Qa5 9. O-O b5

We’re only on move 9 but already Paul gives me an early Christmas present, blundering a piece to a simple tactical idea which is very common in this type of position.

10. e5 Nxe5 11. fxe5 dxe5 12. d3 Bd7 13. cxb5 axb5 14. Bg5 b4 15. Bxf6 bxc3 16. Bxe5 cxb2 17. Bxb8 bxa1=Q 18. Qxa1 c4 19. Be5 cxd3 20. Nf4 f6 21. Bc3 Qa6 22. Qb1 Qxa4 23. Nxd3 Bd6 24. Bb4

Chickening out by heading for the ending. In principle, with an extra piece, not many pawns and the enemy king exposed, I should keep the queens on the board, but sitting opposite such a strong opponent clouded my judgement. The right plan was to play for the attack with 24. Qb6 Ke7 25. Qf2.

24… Bxb4 25. Qxb4 Qxb4 26. Nxb4 Ke7 27. Rc1 Rb8 28. Nc6+ Bxc6 29. Rxc6 Rb1+ 30. Bf1 f5 31. Rc7+ 1/2-1/2

Again chickening out by offering a draw in a position where I could still have tried to win. On paper a draw was an excellent result but with a bit more courage I might have won. The story of my life, I guess.

In the final round I had black against another strong young opponent, Glenn Lambert, who was graded 205 at the time of the game. The following year he was beat Eugenio Torre in the Lord John Cup in London. Torre had beaten Karpov in Manila in 1976, and was to do so again in London in 1984. Sadly, Glenn was later diagnosed with Huntington’s Disease, dying in 2003.

But in this game he was about to give me another early Christmas present as it seems he wasn’t in the mood for playing chess.

1. d4 g6 2. c4 Bg7 3. Nc3 d6 4. Nf3 Bg4 5. g3 Bxf3 6. exf3 Nc6 7. d5 Nd4 8. Bg2 c5 9. dxc6 Nxc6 10. Bd2 h5 11. O-O Nh6 12. Re1 Nf5 13. Rc1 O-O 14. f4 Rc8 15. Bh3 Ncd4 16. b3 a6

Up to this point the engines have a slight preference for White’s bishops, and here prefer 17. Nd5 e6 18. Ne3, to trade off a pair of knights and gain control of the vital d4 square. The way White plays it, though, is fine for Black and over the next few moves I gain the advantage.

17. Bg2 b5 18. cxb5 axb5 19. a4 Qb6 20. Nd5 Qa7 21. axb5 Nxb5 22. Rxc8 Rxc8 23. Qe2

Another indifferent move. Black can either pin the bishop (Rc2 or Qa2) or drive the queen away:

23… Nbd4 24. Nxe7+ Kf8 0-1

White’s 24th move just loses a piece in obvious fashion, but there was still no need to resign, bearing in mind what happened when I was a piece for two pawns ahead in my previous game. I guess he just wasn’t in the mood for playing chess. This sometimes happens, of course, in the last round if the tournament hasn’t gone well for you. The was, remains, and will probably always remain the only time I’ve beaten an opponent graded over 200 in a slowplay game. The following year I was able to tell everyone that I should be world champion: I’d beaten Lambert, who had beaten Torre, who had beaten Karpov.

So I finished on 3½/6, having played four opponents graded over 200 for one of my best tournament results. I was very lucky on the last day, though, as Paul Littlewood uncharacteristically lost a piece in the opening while Glenn Lambert seemingly had little interest in playing chess that day. Something else I just noticed while writing this: my opponents that day had something else in common: they shared the same second name: Edwin.

Richard James


Islington Open 1976 Part 2

My third round opponent was Kevin Wicker, a prominent player and author during the 70s and early 80s. He was joint British U18 Champion in 1970 and very active for some years thereafter before disappearing from the chess scene sometime in the mid 80s. I played Kevin three times in the 70s, being fortunate to draw twice (Bloomsbury 1973 and Charlton 1977) but on this occasion I was out of luck. His grade at the time of this game was 201.

My opening wasn’t very impressive: I usually play too negatively against strong opponents and my opponent launched an attack against my castled king.

1. c4 e5 2. Nc3 Nf6 3. e3 Bb4 4. Nge2 O-O 5. g3 Re8 6. Bg2 c6 7. O-O d5 8. cxd5 cxd5 9. d4 e4 10. Qb3 Nc6 11. Nf4 Bxc3 12. Qxc3 Bg4 13. h3 Bf3 14. Bxf3 exf3 15. Qb3 Qd7 16. Qd1 g5 17. Nd3 Qxh3 18. Qxf3 Ne4 19. b3 Re6 20. Bb2 Nd2 21. Qxd5

I decide to grab a centre pawn, also hitting the g-pawn. The engines now think Black has is doing well if he defends his g-pawn with Qg4 or Ne4 but instead my opponent plays more directly, ignoring the g-pawn and threatening mate.

21… Rh6 22. Qxg5+ Kf8 23. Ba3+ Ke8 24. Qg8+ Kd7

Now I have two plausible checks. Nc5+ leads to a perpetual check in all variations but instead I make the wrong choice and Black soon manages to evade the checks. I guess it looked natural at the time to capture the pawn but surely bringing another piece into play, even without any calculation, is more likely to be correct.

25. Qxf7+ Kd8 26. Qf8+ Kc7 27. Qf7+ Kb6 28. Bc5+ Ka6 29. Nb4+ Nxb4 0-1

In the fourth round I had black against an ungraded opponent who launched a premature king-side attack.

1. d4 g6 2. c4 Bg7 3. Nc3 d6 4. e4 e5 5. d5 Nf6 6. Be2 O-O 7. Bg5 h6 8. Be3 a5 9. g4 Na6 10. g5 hxg5 11. Bxg5 Nc5 12. h4 Qe8 13. f3 Nh5 14. Nb5 Qd7 15. Nh3 Ng3 16. Rh2 f5 17. Qc2 fxe4 18. fxe4 Ngxe4 19. O-O-O c6 20. dxc6 bxc6

I’ve won a pawn and opened up the centre against the white king, but here Qxc6 would have been a simpler and stronger alternative. Now White decides to sacrifice a piece to set up a pin on the d-file.

21. Nxd6 Nxd6 22. Qxg6

White could instead have regained the piece by playing Be3, followed by c5 when the knight moves away, but this is also good for Black.

22… Ne6

This is not good for Black, though. The right move is Nce4. Now White should play 23. Bd3, with dangerous threats against the black king. The engines claim equality for black only by sacrificing his queen after 23… e4 24. Nxe4 Nxe4, and there’s no way I would have found that over the board.

But instead…

23. Bg4 Qf7 24. Qc2

Not wanting to trade queens is understandable but now Black has an attack as well as an extra piece.

24… Nd4 25. Rxd4 exd4 26. Bxc8 Raxc8 27. Bf4 Qxc4

Either a strange decision or an oversight. After Nxc4 Black’s just a rook ahead. For some reason I choose the ending with an extra exchange, but it’s still more than enough to win.

28. Bxd6 Rf1+ 29. Kd2 Bh6+ 30. Ng5 Qxc2+ 31. Kxc2 Bxg5 32. hxg5 Kf7 33. Bc5 Rd8 34. Rd2 Rf4 35. Rd3 Rd5 36. b4 axb4 37. Bxb4 c5 38. Bd2 Rf2 39. Kb3 Re5 40. a4 Ree2 41. Kc2 Ke6 42. Kd1 Ke5 43. Be1 Rg2 44. Rd2 Rxd2+ 45. Bxd2 Kd5 46. a5 c4 47. a6 Kc6 48. Bf4 Kb6 49. Be5 d3 0-1

Richard James